Auto/Economy
4:17 pm
Wed January 25, 2012

GM CEO defends safety of Chevy Volt at Congressional hearing

General Motors CEO Dan Akerson strongly defended the safety of the Chevy Volt during his testimony before a House subcommittee Wednesday.    

The hearing was entitled "Volt vehicle fire:  What did NHTSA know, and when did they know it?"   

Last June, a fire broke out in a Chevy Volt, three weeks after it had been damaged in a crash test.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened an official investigation into the fire risk of the Volt in late November, after performing two other tests on the Volt's battery alone.

Republican Congressman Darrell Issa of California, a frequent critic of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, questions whether the U.S. Treasury's part-ownership of GM led to a politically motivated cover-up of the investigation.

Akerson said he did not communicate with the Obama administration about the situation, and he called NHTSA's response to the fire "proportional."

In his prepared remarks before questioning, Akerson said the Volt was engineered for safety, receiving a five-star crash test rating from NHTSA and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

"Unfortunately there’s one thing we did not engineer," he told the panel.  "Although we loaded the Volt with safety features, we did not engineer the Volt to be a political punching bag."

Akerson says he drove a Volt to the hearing. 

GM's then-CEO, Rick Wagoner, was lambasted by politicians in late 2008, when he flew to Washington in  a corporate jet to ask for federal aid to avoid bankruptcy for his company.  

(GM's corporate jets have since been sold.) 

NHTSA closed its investigation into the Volt last week, saying it believes there's no greater fire risk in electric vehicles like the Volt than in conventional vehicles.